An ad for an Employee Career Consultant in a leading corporation drew over 300 applicants two years ago. Expertise in career counseling with an adult population is only one of the competencies that this job demands. If corporate career development is an area you might be interested in moving into, what can you do to be the best prepared and qualified candidate?
Understand the current state of corporate career development
The 1990's saw exciting growth of corporate career development programs, where employers sought to attract, develop, and retain top talent by providing support for their employees. Initially programs were piloted in a headquarters location, with a physical facility, workshops, and a professional staff. Often the process included employees completing a variety of self-assessments, putting together proposals for modifying their current responsibilities or investigating potential jobs within the company, initiating career discussions with their managers, and writing a career action plan.
Toward the end of the decade, programs began to change in response to a demand for delivering services at all company locations, including international offices, 24/7. There was a shift toward web-based resources and telephone or web-based consulting to increase the outreach in a cost-effective manner.
With the advent of the economic downturn in 2000, more changes occurred. Some corporations maintained or increased their career planning support, strengthening their commitment to employees. Others eliminated the programs already in place along with thousands of their employees, trying to weather the tough business climate. However, many individuals came to realize that they needed to develop employability and career planning skills.
Employees will look to their employer to provide that support. While dollars are tight, employers will not have the resources for the well-funded programs and staff of several years ago. As the economy improves and the job market loosens up, companies must ensure that they provide incentives for their best employees to stay. Employers may find that they turn once again to career professionals to provide those services.
Those career counselors who have read the books and professional journals that describe corporate career development programs will be well grounded in their understanding of this evolution.
Understand what the position entails
Read job descriptions frequently and thoroughly. Though individual positions will vary, click here for a sample composite job description which outlines the range of responsibilities for a Corporate Career Consultant.
Become familiar with the business world and Human Resource issues, terms, and trends.
Human Resource terms such as talent retention strategies, 360-degree feedback, performance management systems, and competency development are often unfamiliar to those from other settings. Equally as foreign are business terms such as B2B marketing, run rates, earnings per share, and supply chain management.
If you intend to work within a new culture, you usually need to learn the new language and become fluent in it. Customs are also different in this new land. Career counselors will benefit by immersing themselves in learning about corporations and Human Resources. If you are doing some of the following activities, you are on the right track.
a) Scan the lead stories in these top newspapers, magazines, or websites to learn and to keep current:
b) Join a local Human Resources professional organization, or at least attend a few meetings or events. This is an easy way to meet key people and enlist their assistance in helping you understand HR and the business environment.
c) Take an "Introduction to Business" course at a local community college, or at least read the textbook or view videotapes. An excellent example would be Business by Pride, Hughes, and Kapoor, (Houghton Mifflin). A class will not only increase your content knowledge, but it can also expose you to your fellow students' experiences in the business world.
d) Use other people with business experience as mentors. As you read, ask them questions to help you understand practical everyday applications. You may find that asking them about terminology you do not understand or requesting examples will accelerate your learning. Especially helpful are career professionals who have already had experience working in corporate career development.
e) For business terminology, the Washington Post Business Glossary www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/business/specials/glossary/index.html is a good resource.
f) Learn from the websites of consulting companies who offer corporate career development services, such as:
g) Identify companies you would like to work for, and do some research on the internet to gather information about them. This is also a good way to find a name of someone who might become a contact for you. Many people find it invaluable to conduct informational interviews with Human Resources staff regarding career development challenges such as employee retention.
h) Many times offering to do a "Lunch and Learn" program on a career-related topic is a great way to become known to the staff and begin developing a reputation as a professional resource.
While Learning, Build Relationships
Most of the applicants for a position advertised in Fall, 2000, were Human Resources Generalists seeking to shift their job responsibilities from "fighting fires" with employee discipline situations toward working with employee development. The competition was keen, since they already had both experience in a corporate environment as well as Human Resources experience. Expect this to continue when the economy improves and corporate career development starts to heat up again.
The opportunity right now is for career counselors to begin to build relationships with management and Human Resources staff. Once they are viewed as recognized professional resources and knowledgeable about the HR challenges in organizations, career counselors will be in a more competitive position to be considered for contract, part-time or full-time work with the company.
In honor of NCDA's 100th anniversary, Career Convergence is publishing articles of historical significance. This article and bio was reprinted from our debut issue in 2003.
Paula Kosin is Marketing Manager for Career Vision, the division of The Ball Foundation well-known for its aptitude-based career planning services. Paula's career includes 17 years in corporate training and career development and five years as an independent career consultant. Paula holds a Master's degree and is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She is co-author of the award-winning parent's guide, "Getting Started: Talking with Your Child About Career Choices", and a frequent speaker and media resource on career issues. She may be reached at 630-469-6270 or via email.